S’il a été un grand bluesman, le répertoire de Leadbelly était d’une variété étonnante, et il a illustré tous les genres de la chanson populaire américaine.

Cette ballade, John Hardy, est de celles qui ont connu un grand nombre de versions, avec d’importantes variantes, et parfois un titre différent, comme chez Woody Guthrie qui l’intitule Johnny Hard. La mélodie a été utilisée dans d’autres chansons, comme le Tom Joad de Woody Guthrie ou le Joe Hill de Phil Ochs, que l’on trouve sur ce site. Si sa trame est toujours la même, celle de l’histoire d’un meurtrier rattrapé par son destin, il existe de nombreuses variantes, chaque artiste aménageant le texte à sa manière, et modifiant le cas échéant les noms des lieux et des gens.


JOHN HARDY

John Hardy, he was a desperate little man
He carried two guns every day
He shot a man on the West Virginia line
I seen John Hardy getting’ away poor boy
I seen John Hardy getting’ away

John Hardy went up on that Freestone bridge
He thought he was free
Up came a man and he caught him by the arm
Said « Johnny, come and go with me poor boy,
Johnny, come and go with me »

John Hardy had a mother and a father too
He begged them to come and go his bail
There was no bail allowed for the murderin’ man
They chased John Hardy back in jail poor boy
They chased John Hardy back in jail

John Hardy he had a pretty little wife
And the dress she wore was blue
She come to the jailhouse with a loud shout
Said “Johnny I been true to you poor boy,
Johnny I been true to you”

John Hardy, was standing in his cell
And tears are rollin’ down his eyes
Said, « I have been at the death of many a poor man
And now I am ready to die poor boy
And now I am ready to die »

I’ve been to the east I’ve been to the west
I’ve been the whole wide world around
I’ve been to the river and I’ve been to baptized
Take me to my hanging ground Lord, Lord
And take me to my hanging ground